Some Dos and Don’ts for Supporting Your Loved One with Depression

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2014 Nancy Virden

photo-24768393-old-man-raising-his-eye-browA husband is having a depressive episode and it may be major. He feels spiritually dead, and lack of motivation and energy pin him to the couch. It’s likely that emotional pain is a hundred times worse than any physical suffering he has experienced.

It is extremely important your loved one be seen by a medical doctor of mental health- a psychiatrist – to ascertain what is wrong and offer appropriate treatment. Talk therapy and medication combined may be what helps best.

Effectively supporting your loved one who is living with depression, does not have to be complicated.  Here are some suggestions based on personal (not professional) experience with major depression.

Begin by gently asking what he needs in the moment. He may not know, however believe what he says.

Do not try to “fix” him. You may not intend to harass him, but repeatedly demanding he go for a walk or help around the house is not helpful. Try instead, “I’m going for a walk and I’d like you to come with me if you want to” or “Can you dry the dishes while I wash them? I’d like to have your company.” This type of approach is accepting.

If there is anything (non-patronizing) that you can do or say to let him know he is valuable, do or say it. Avoid guilt trips. Hearing you are wanted and needed is different from being told you are failing.

Anything he can do to help himself is good. Even climbing out of bed for a few minutes counts. Help him see he is making progress, that you enjoyed the few minutes he was up, and that it matters.

More than anything else you can offer, just be there. That’s huge. In his depression he may not think anyone cares about him. You say you do, but maybe he believes you are mistaken. Also, he may fear you will not care much longer because he is unproductive and “useless”.

If you can just be there, completely accepting him for who is in the moment  (sitting beside his bed reading a book silently, making his favorite meal, chattering with small talk even if he’s quiet), these ordinary little things can mean more than you know.

I highly recommend the book (also in audio), “When You Can’t Snap Out of It: Finding Your Way Through Depression” by Dr. Louis Bevilacqua. Many of Dr. Bevilacqua’s simple exercises have been and continue to be useful for me.  If possible, do them together.  Don’t carry high expectations for fast relief. Depression is often difficult to overcome.

Do something nice for yourself. Keep talking to friends or professionals about what you are going through, because if you do not have your own support you will suffer too.


NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos

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